Beginning in 2017, Purdue University has offered the This Is How We “Role” grant to colleges and schools of veterinary medicine around the country. The grant allows for the delivery of a 12-week curriculum of classes designed by Purdue to promote interest in math, science, problem solving, and, of course, veterinary medicine. Groups of veterinary students of varying backgrounds are preferred as the program seeks to introduce diversity into a historically homogenous occupation.
Selected schools and colleges partner with a local underserved elementary school, whether through socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or otherwise. The message: anyone can be a veterinarian; anyone can be a scientist—all it takes is a spark and tenacity.
For the last two semesters, the UGA CVM has partnered with the after-school program at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School (OAES). For six weeks per semester, UGA veterinary students visit the school and treat small groups of students to an afternoon of fun and learning. This semester’s group of students have enjoyed their visits so far and are looking forward to future lessons.
Third-year DVM student Kristen Peagler is a student volunteer, and she is optimistic about the program’s impact. She feels that “making learning about the topics enjoyable, while also stimulating inquisitiveness and showing the kids the true realm of the profession, will inspire a new generation of diverse students.”
The response from the OAES students has been positive. Peagler relates, “The kids were full of energy and excited to learn, which is impressive after a long day at school.” And the surprises didn’t stop there. According to Peagler, the young students would often use their outside knowledge from other classes to relate to the lesson.
OAES school counselor Christina Cotsakis Cordón has expressed her delight with the UGA students’ presence on campus. “The This Is How We ‘Role’ program is a great way for our students to have fun while learning about new careers,” she said. “While the program focuses on veterinary medicine, and we now have aspiring veterinarians at OAES, this is also the starting point for many students to learn about other career opportunities as well.”
And these lessons also have an impact on the adults in the school. Cotsakis Cordón says, “Students who participate in the program will often stop me to tell me about the animals that they are learning about. The students truly enjoy spending time learning with UGA students at the How We ‘Role’ program!”